Regulation and Social Capital

Why is regulation associated with domination? Why do people see regulation as a cost or burden? Why isn’t regulation something that we want to understand and value, seeing it as useful social scaffolding for improving quality of life? The broad aim of this project is to assemble empirical evidence to explain why we often waver in our trust and confidence in regulatory systems and to consider what is needed to improve regulatory effectiveness and to establish respectful relations with communities. The proposed project examines the relationships that regulators have with affected communities in a range of regulated zones: higher and vocational education, work safety, child protection, school and workplace bullying, and taxation; and interrogates the trustworthiness of these relationships against the backdrop of what people expect and hope government will deliver in a democratic society. Future work will extend these ideas to look at the role of regulation in employment equity and community sustainability post industry closure and environmental disasters.  

Addressing Environmental Harm through Restorative Justice

This project led by Miranda Forsyth and involving John and Valerie Braithwaite and Deborah Cleland from ANU in partnership with EPA Victoria has been awarded an ARC Linkage grant, commencing in 2018. Restorative justice broadly understood allows all people with a stake in an offence (or conflict) to engage in a facilitated process that is designed to achieve a collective understanding about the causes and effects of harm and seek resolution. Specifically, the research will co-design, develop, test (through pilots) and evaluate an Environmental Restorative Practices Continuum – to allow consideration of Restorative Justice across the regulatory continuum of approval/permit, complaints, compliance and investigation, and sanctioning and enforcement.

Trust and Hope in the Democracy

This project examines the role of trust and hope in governance. The central hypothesis is that trust and hope build social capacity and enable cooperation. At the heart of the project is motivational posturing theory. Motivational posturing theory explains responses to government authority of disengagement, game playing, resistance, capitulation and commitment as ways of dealing with the sacrifice of individual freedom. Between 1999 and 2005, the following issues were addressed within the context of taxation: What makes people accept the obligation to pay tax even when it is possible to evade or avoid payment? More recently, a series of surveys have been conducted to examine the ways in which citizens posture to government and government postures to citizens.

Peacebuilding Compared

What are the kinds of interventions that create wars and make things worse for people? How can peacebuilding contribute to justice and development? How do war and peace cascade from one hot spot to another? How can peacebuilding be locally responsive and restorative as it transforms structural causes of war? This project follows until 2030, the 50-60 most significant armed conflicts across the world since 1988. Over 700 variables are coded for each war. Specific wars also stand alone as contextually rich accounts of successes and failures of peace. The aim is a unique hybrid of ethnographic and quantitative research. Peacebuilding Compared is led by John Braithwaite. Peacebuilding Compared has been running since 2004, initially under successive ARC grants.

Compliance and Defiance with Work Health and Safety

This work was first supported by an ARC Linkage grant with Liz Bluff, Neil Gunningham and Jenny Job and evolved to incorporate a study on motivational posturing with Queensland work health and safety regulators. Deborah Cleland, Valerie Braithwaite and Malcolm Mearns investigated the motivational postures of those responsible for Work Health and Safety in small to medium businesses as well as the regulator’s perceptions of business postures.

School and Workplace Bullying Prevention

Over 20 years a series of projects on school and workplace bullying prevention have been undertaken with PhD students and collaborators, including Eliza Ahmed, Brenda Morrison, Helene Shin and Jacqueline Homel. Core themes of this work are poor shame and pride management as a source of bullying behaviours along with a failure to find safe spaces to reflect, learn and resolve conflicts. The direction advocated by these studies is institutional changes of various kinds - education that gives opportunity to young people for meaningful engagement in their adult life (Jacqueline Homel) and restorative justice as a way of providing safe space for healing among offenders and victims alike (Eliza Ahmed, Brenda Morrison, and Helene Shin). In 1996, Eliza Ahmed began the Life at School Project with primary school children and their primary carers in Canberra. With the assistance of Brenda Morrison, the study progressed to follow children and their parents through secondary school. Jacqueline Homel conducted the final and third stage of the study with these children as they went on to tertiary education or entered the workforce. Eliza Ahmed also led a large scale cross-sectional study of bullying at school and in the workplace in Bangladesh, along with a survey of workplace bullying among a random sample of Australians. Helene Shin provided a further comparative account through her research on workplace bullying in schools in Australia and Korea. In recent years, team members have focused on understanding the experience of bullying through the seven waves of data collection in the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Updates for this project will be made available at

Capacity Building in Child Protection

This project initially began as an ARC Linkage grant with Nathan Harris, Dorothy Scott, Morag McArthur and the ACT Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services, and has developed to draw on the expertise of Mary Ivec (foundation coordinator of Canberra’s Restorative City Initiative), Sharynne Hamilton (ANU’s first Indigenous intern, now completing her PhD on Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder at the Telethon Kids Institute) and Tali Gal (Head of the School of Criminology, Univerity of Haifa). The overall objective of this series of studies is to demonstrate how safety and care for children can be improved through a restorative justice and responsive regulatory approach that engages community as opposed to distancing and threatening community. Central to the projects is the idea of creating institutions that genuinely give children and their families voice and opportunity to shape their futures. Current work involves Nathan Harris’ account of what parents need to know to deal with child protection, based on his extensive study of parents’ first experiences with child protection; Sharynne Hamilton’s study of how community workers struggle to meet the expectations of child protection and experience stigma because of their association with child protection families; and survey studies conducted Australia wide of child protection staff and third parties who work alongside these authorities. Updates for this project can be found at

Tax System Integrity

Taxation has been cocooned for too long as an inevitable and resented instrumentality of government. Australians are acutely aware of what tax dollars deliver. They also are very clear about how government should spend taxpayers' money and are not unwilling or unable to reflect on community interests. When confidence is lost in the system, however, taxpayers bow out of being a collective player and disengage. Resources permitting, disillusionment may turn into game playing in an attempt to beat the system at its own game. A thriving financial planning industry is able to push game playing along, giving tax defiance a safer avenue for expression. These are among the main findings of the Centre for Tax System Integrity (CTSI), funded from 1999-2005 by an ANU-ATO research partnership. Tax publications continue to appear on the Centre's website: